Thursday, September 29, 2016
Please Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinions in my review in any way.
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
The young Jane Austen is not particularly interested in getting married, although she does find the mysterious Mr. Lefroy an intriguing possibility--but first she has to deal with the accusation that her cousin Eliza is a French spy, and solve a murder.
I wanted to love this book. I hate writing negative reviews. Since I adore Jane Austin (and most anything having to do with her), reading this "novel of intrigue and romance" was painful. I have argued with myself over whether or not to even write any review at all. But I feel part of my role as a reviewer is to help people steer clear of works that are a waste of time. This gives me no joy to do this, but here it goes.
The story starts out pleasant enough, with Jane Austin being the house guest of one of her brothers. Deep in reading, she is unobserved in the library when her brother gets news that their cousin, Eliza, is suspected of being a spy for the French. Jane is incredulous as she has just invited Eliza for a visit. Realizing the War Office has used Jane to lure Eliza into a trap, Jane sets out to warn her cousin. A tale of intrigue? That would have been fun. But when a murder is introduced into the story, the narrative goes from riveting to ridiculous. As an avid fan of Jane Austin and the Georgian era, I found the manners and actions of this book to be insulting.
One of the joys of reading a Jane Austin book is her keen observations on the manners of her time. There were strict rules of conduct between men and women that had consequences. Yet there are so many situations in Secrets In The Snow, by Michaela MacColl, that would never happen that I wonder if the author has researched the time period at all. At one point in the story, Jane discovers a body in the snow. She runs to get her brother (plausible) but then works with him and a male visitor to solve the crime.
Not in a million years would the males of a house let a female be involved in anything that serious. The moment she would have told them, the men would have promptly told Jane to leave it to the men to deal with and shoo her out the library door. It would not have occurred to a man of that time to think a woman was even capable of rational thought, let alone treat her as an equal! They would also have immediately felt it was their duty to shield Jane from any potential scandal that could taint her marriageability in the future.
The book would have been much better if Jane had been told not to interfere, and then solved the murder with the added impediment of needing to be stealthy. That would have been much more interesting and true to the era.
There are also several scenes between Jane and a character named Tom that would never happen. No woman would ever walk alone with a man, hold hands with a man, or drink alcohol alone with a man without ruining her reputation. And she would not allow a man to kiss her without, "Will you marry me?" escaping his lips first. These may seem like quibbles, but these action are so out of place, that they make the whole story seem comical.
I also feel the attempts at foreshadowing future novels such as Pride and Prejudice to be insulting. Heaven forbid that Jane could be creative on her own. No, she has to get "inspiration" from Tom. He just happens to have five sisters (P & P), suggests improvements for Sense and Sensibility, and even tells Jane one day she could make a living out of writing her little stories. Um, that would have been offensive to a woman of Jane's social class.
The resolution of this murder mystery is also a farce. Since it is not my policy to write reviews with spoilers, I will not say who did the deed. But, besides being painfully obvious, several people cover up for the murderer. With her strong religious beliefs (her father was a clergyman), Jane would never be tempted to help someone get away with murder.
If you are a Jane Austin fan such as me, do not waste your energy on reading this book. I know the author must have worked hard and I respect anyone who has completed a book and gotten it published. But I truly wish she had stayed true to the time period.
Release Date: October 4th, 2016
Format: ARC E-book
Recommendation: This reads like poorly done fanfic (apologies to those writing actual fanfic). Do not waste your time.